Comment Period On WOTUS Extended Again

The most difficult word to write is the very first one. In fact, most times, I start by writing the body of an article, then come back to that always-challenging first sentence. So I can certainly appreciate when someone else starts an article with a clever opening line, such as, “If a ditch fills with rainwater – and nobody’s around to see it – can it still be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency?”

That was the opening line by Tennille Tracy from The Wall Street Journal Washington Wire on an article regarding the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed rule, called Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS), defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act. The article was an update on the issue, which is important for you to know about since it will directly affect all farmers.

Two things have happened recently concerning WOTUS. First, the EPA has once again extended the comment period, which now ends on Nov. 14, 2014. Secondly, some members of the House of Representatives finally woke up and realized the EPA is circumventing all of their authority (again), and a bill called the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014 was drafted. The House passed the bill by a vote of 262 to 152. However, the Senate is unlikely to pass such a bill unless the election changes the party with a majority, which will be interesting to watch on election night. Of course, the White House has threatened to veto the House’s bill.

At the Sunbelt Ag Expo in mid-October, the Georgia Agribusiness Council and the Georgia Farm Bureau collected more than 1,100 signatures on a 12-foot banner emblazoned with the slogan “Ditch the Rule.” The signing had to be stopped after only a few hours, not because they were running out of people willing to sign the banner, but because they ran out of space on the banner for people to sign. To learn more about the issue or to submit comments if you have not done so already, go to the American Farm Bureau’s website, http://ditchtherule.fb.org. You don’t want to have to pull a permit every time a ditch fills with rainwater.